The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.
It was the drive in to work that was always the grimmest. Just the idea that I had to go back to this place yet again. This place that I have grown to loathe. This place run by monsters and morons, the same monsters and morons who have now derailed my career. This place filled with cowardice and passive-aggression. This place where I am wasting my potential and pissing away some of the prime years of my career that fills me with existential dread and bone deep resentment for these motherfuckers. And there was still months of this shit ahead.
I stuck around in my corporate job for 14 more months than I had planned and/or wanted to. And I listened to this song nearly every single day on my way into work.
Change is comin’ our way!
Just like… just like a new day!
I used those simple words in that anthemic chorus as my mantra. I knew a new day was coming, I just didn’t know exactly when. I could feel it, and I couldn’t wait to feel it. Freedom loomed just over the horizon and while playing out the string on this loser ass corporate team was indeed very trying mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, I’d gladly do it again because with the benefit of hindsight, I was doing right by my wife and my unborn daughter and setting myself up for greater success.
As Kristin and I sat in the hot tub the other night, she talked in detail about her goals for 2024. I’m not good at this. I don’t really think in terms of goals not because I’m not ambitious, but because every time I’ve been goal-focused, my mental health suffers and I tend to ignore processes that make me happy. I find I work best if I’m doing work that fulfills me and if my day-to-day is spent in processes I enjoy. Success and reward tends to follow that. So from that angle, I had an answer for her. My goal for 2024 is that if I reach a critical decision point about (most notably) my career and this company, I want to feel like I am prepared enough to make a decision that I feel confident in with little or no regrets.
That’s what I did when I listened to “New Day” by The Bouncing Souls every day for those 14 months. Sure, there was plenty of despair about the dull, grinding monotony of being forced to spend 8 hours a day with certain people I’d rather shoot paintballs at than kowtow to, but my favorite part of The Bouncing Souls is that their music is relentlessly optimistic. I can’t think of another band as positive or as life-affirming as them, and it’s reflected in the perpetual battle-cry vocal style of lead singer Greg Attonito. I’d follow that voice anywhere he asked.
You see it in their song titles, too. “Sing Along Forever,” “Hopeless Romantic,” “True Believers,” “Kids and Heroes,” “Better Days,” “Better Things,” “Better Life,” “Manthem…” it goes on like this across their albums. These are all just songs I thought of off the top of my head.
So I took the spirit of “New Day” and made sure I was using my time wisely. I laid the groundwork for my new company. Designed the website. Figured out my elevator pitch. Hired a designer to make my logo. Met with people who still tolerated, and bafflingly still even liked, my surly ass and told them that a new day was coming, and when that day came, I’d love to work with them. I prepared myself for life away from this corporate hellhole so that whenever that day came, I’d be ready and feel confident with little to no regrets about.
I got laid off on a Tuesday, shortly after lunch. I turned in my credit card, my badge, and whatever other detritus I had on me – I had already packed up my office the week prior – shook hands with my idiot (now former) boss, and strode out the door to my car. The very first song I played as soon as I got in my car was “New Day” by The Bouncing Souls. My new day had finally arrived. I smiled the whole way home, and then got drunk Viking-style that night to celebrate.
I’ve never forgotten that feeling, and in fact I actively try to remember it frequently, especially if I’ve had a tough day professionally. The feeling of longing, of waiting, of dying to get the fuck out of this place, and that day FINALLY arriving. I never had to go back to that office, and I think about my drive home feeling like Red at the end of The Shawshank Redemption when he said, “I could barely still sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the type of excitement only a free man can feel at the start of a long journey whose future is uncertain.”
I’m still writing my journey. I write it every day. And I remain excited by it, which is why thinking in terms of goals still trips me up. I don’t really have a professional destination in mind, per se. But I do know I’m on the right path, and if I feel in my bones that the path is a good one, I know no matter what the destination is, it’ll be the correct one.
The Bouncing Souls are a Top 5 band all-time for me. I listen to them all the freaking time. And if this remains the soundtrack to my professional journey, I will always be headed in the right direction. Every day is a New Day, if you let it be.
Up next: Ya on point, Phife?